Slideshow image

Year 1, Week 24, Day 4

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Joshua 9.

Today’s reading makes mention of what the current inhabitants of the Land are saying about the Israelites’ recent victories: “As soon as all the kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, heard of this, they gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel.” (Joshua 9:1-2). The inhabitants of the Land are ready for a fight. But Joshua 9 records the approach that the Gibeonites took: “But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they on their part acted with cunning” (Joshua 9:3). The Gibeonites approach Israel, not to fight, but to fool them. The Gibeonites use a ruse to get the Israelites to thank that they have come from a long way off, and in so doing, to enter into a covenant with Israel: “From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God. For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt…We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us.”’ (Joshua 9:9,11b). Their trickery works; Israel makes a covenant with the Gibeonites.

One of the things that struck me in today’s reading is the LORD’s instruction for His people to grasp the practical importance of seeking the LORD in prayer: “Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart” (Psalm 119:2). Israel was forbidden to make a covenant with the existing inhabitants of the Land: “When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you…You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them” (Deuteronomy 7:1a,2b). However, it seems that Israel was permitted to make a covenant (or at least make peace) with peoples outside the Land: “When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. And if it responds to you peaceably and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you” (Deuteronomy 20:10). So, the decision that Israel made to enter into a covenant per se, was not the problem. The problem was that the men of Israel were duped. Today’s reading suggests that they were easily duped because they did not readily position themselves to seek the LORD: “So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them” (Joshua 9:14-15). Israel lacked the discernment needed to know who they were really dealing with.

After the covenant was made, the truth came out: “At the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, they heard that they were their neighbors and that they lived among them.” (Joshua 9:16). This caused an uproar among the Israelites, but the leaders underscore that the covenant had already been made: “But all the leaders said to all the congregation, “We have sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them.” (Joshua 9:19). The leaders state that they would be liable before God if they did not honor the word of the covenant: “This we will do to them: let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath that we swore to them.” (Joshua 9:20). The covenant would need to be honored, but there would be consequences upon the Gibeonites for their deception: “Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall never be anything but servants, cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.” (Joshua 9:23).

The Gibeonites offered an explanation for their deceit: “They answered Joshua, “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you—so we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing.” (Joshua 9:24). The Gibeonites feared what the LORD told His people to do to the inhabitants. What is intriguing to sort out is how Rahab, who feared the LORD, is similar and/or different from the Gibeonites. Rahab and the Gibeonites are both spared, but there seems to be more that is different about the two than there is alike. Rahab really does take on life that worships the LORD, whereas, the Gibeonites seem to be more concerned with their own self-preservation than anything else. Figuring out the true spiritual condition of the Gideonites has a few complexities to it, but I would suggest that in the case of Rahab, she truly trusted in the LORD in light of hearing of His imminent judgment; however, in the case of the Gibeonites, while they are spared an immediate judgment, Joshua says that they are “cursed”. The Israelites will show mercy toward the Gibeonites, but this is explained, not because their relationship with the LORD being genuine, but because of their covenant commitment to the Gibeonites, albeit deceitfully acquired.

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe